Peter Principle

I remember reading this book, it’s called “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.”

And there’s this one line I really liked.

It said “every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” Interesting, right?

And that’s basically what The Peter Principle is all about.

So, let me explain this idea.

When you’re great at work, you get rewarded, right?

And for many people, the reward is a promotion.

And if you keep doing a great job, you’ll rise through the ranks.

Until you reach a certain point.

That point where you become incompetent.

So, in a way, that promotion doesn’t really turn out to be a reward.

It turns out to be limit. Or some sort of a career ceiling.

Let me give you an example:

So let’s say you work at a store. A small retail store, for example.

You arrange the items, work on the inventory, help the customers and all that. And you’re great at it.

And then in a few years, you get promoted to a shift supervisor. Good.

So you continue doing great work and your boss is happy about it.

Now, your boss is really impressed, so you get rewarded again.

This time, they promote you store manager.

What happens is next is this – and here’s where it gets ugly:

Suddenly, you find yourself dealing with store policies, taxes, marketing. And none of the things you’re actually good at. So you learn this new job from scratch.

That’s the point where you get promoted to your level of incompetence.

And when that happens, you’ll underperform. Meaning you won’t get promoted anymore.

You’re stuck in that level.

Just imagine. What if all the managers in your company got promoted to their level of incompetence. It’ll be an entire company of leaders who don’t know what they’re doing.

And here’s another thing:

Let’s say you did get promoted. And you ended up being an incompetent manager.

You see, once you reach that level, people won’t care about your output.

But instead, they’ll look at your input.

So, let’s say you show up to work every day and attend meetings. That’s your input.

You won’t get demoted. You won’t get fired. It’s just too late to do that. Unless, of course, you’re overwhelmingly incompetent.

Here’s a great article to read called deniz sasal LIG. The article is about how he rose from failure.

Alright, so my point here is this:

You’re bound to reach that level. You have a limit. We all do.

As long as you do great at your job, you’ll be rewarded.

And, usually, you can’t just say no to that promotion.

But then, nobody wants to be promoted to their level of incompetence.

Nobody wants to become that incompetent manager.

Okay, so maybe now you’re still at the level where you’re doing great.

So while you’re still there, do something.

Don’t wait until you hit your career ceiling.

Ideally, training can help you beat the Peter Principle.

But then, you’re not the one who decides if you will be trained for this new position.

So what you can do here is this:

One, you can set clear expectations. Know what’s in there for you.

Before you set your sights on that promotion, try doing this. Look past the higher pay or the bigger office or the leadership opportunity.

What skills do you need? What are you gonna work on for most of your time?

So, by doing this, you’re giving yourself enough time to work on the gaps.

Now, you know what you need to work on.

So, take on new projects. It’s gonna help you learn the skills you’re missing.

Another thing, ask for feedback. Or better yet, find a mentor.

You know, this Peter principle, it’s not absolute.

Yes, it’s true for a lot of people. But you don’t have to accept is.

That career ceiling, you don’t need to live with it.

You’re capable of pushing your limits.

Seek a mentor, learn new skills, don’t stop at what your job needs you to do.